There is no legal age limit for leaving a child on their own, but it is an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk. Parents can be prosecuted if they leave a child unsupervised ‘in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’ (Children and Young Person’s Act).
How mature is the child?
The most important factor to consider is how mature the child is. For example, it may be okay to leave a mature 12 year old alone, but not a 13 year old who is not mature.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) advises that:
- children under the age of about 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time
- children under the age of 16 should not be left alone overnight
- babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone
Things to remember
If you do leave your child home alone, remember to do the following:
- leave a contact phone number and make sure you can answer it right away
- leave a separate contact list of people you trust, in case they can’t get hold of you
- talk to your child before you leave about how to stay safe, and tell them not to answer the door to strangers
- make sure dangerous objects like matches and knives are out of reach, as well as medicines and dangerous chemicals
- leave clear instructions on what to do in case of an emergency (like a fire)
- tell them what time you will be back, and don’t be late
- set some basic rules about what they can and can’t do while you are out
- teach them basic first aid
Finally, it is important to make sure that your child is happy to be left alone. If they aren’t confident about being left alone then find someone to look after them.
Finding somebody to look after your child when you can't may be easier, and more affordable, than you think. For more information on all your childcare options, click on the links below.